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Obscuring Licence Plates

IMPORTANT NOTICE: THIS IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE. The information presented here is based upon best available information at time of posting. SENSE does not assume any liability pertaining to the accuracy of the information presented. Readers are advised to verify information they intend to rely upon.
SENSE does not use, support, or endorse any products designed to make licence plates difficult to photograph. We are providing this information so that vehicle operators remain in compliance with the law.

do covers work? | the law | the cameras | what's the problem? | do I need front plates?

Do licence plate covers work?
Caution: some devices/techniques may get you a $150 ticket under MVA Regulation 3.03 - Plates to be unobstructed.

Here is a list of the common anti-photo radar devices/techniques available which work by obscuring or attempting to obscure your licence plate:

  • Licence plate covers will get you a ticket -- they are easy to spot -- and many, if not all, provide little protection from the strong flash and high quality optics used.

  • Licence plate louvers/flaps will get you a ticket -- they are also easy to spot.

  • Passive radar jammers have been shown to be about as useful as a box of Kleenex on your dash!

  • Active radar jammers would probably be pointing in the wrong direction to work, are very expensive, and are usually illegal to operate.

  • Hair spray on the plate is rumoured to increase the reflectivity of the plate and may over-expose the film but is highly unreliable and we are not aware of any substantiated reports of its effectiveness.

  • NEW!Linseed oil on the plate is rumoured to attract dust which would reduce image clarity. Note: a dirty plate might get you a ticket!

  • There are many expensive slave-strobe type anti-photo radar devices currently for sale. These devices work on the same principle as slave-strobes used by professional photographers: when they detect the flash of another flash bulb, they also flash within thousandths of a second -- thus possibly over-exposing the photograph. If you know what you are doing, a crude version of these devices can be built for about $25. They also will only work if the photo radar deployment is using a flash, and not all do!

  • Licence plate spray solutions can be expensive and require occasional re-treatments to maintain peak effectiveness. SENSE has not been able to evaluate their effectiveness -- caveat emptor!
  • A note to those testing potential devices/techniques: a consumer-level camera will not produce the same results as the professional equipment used by photo radar. If you are going to test something, use professional quality gear.

    There is a list of companies offering these devices on our Links page under "Anti-Speed Enforcement Devices"

    What is the law about obscuring my licence plate?
    The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations prescribe that number plates shall not be obstructed. Contrary to government statements that it has always been illegal to obstruct your plate (in reference to recent tickets issued to those unknowingly obstructing their plates with bike racks), both the Motor Vehicle Act Regulation3.03 and MVA Section 74 have in fact been changed, as has the intensity of enforcement:

    Obstruction of the cameras

    Motor Vehicle Act Section 135.1

    Prohibition against obstruction of speed monitoring devices and traffic light safety devices

    What's the problem?

    SENSE has valid concerns that drivers are receiving tickets for clear plate covers (designed to prevent sticker theft -- which have no ability to prevent photo radar photos from being taken) or unintentionally obscuring their plates, based upon the following:

    1. The definition and level of enforcement of Reg. 3.03 has fundamentally changed as a result of the introduction of photo radar.

    3. Drivers who would have previously been given a warning or received no action at all, are now given tickets immediately.

    5. The November 20, 1995, edition of TSI Update (an internal government publication on the Traffic Safety Initiatives) said: "following a B.C.-wide media campaign this fall, police will especially target drivers who obstruct their licence plates inadvertently, such as with bike racks, trailer hitches or mud. [emphasis added]" This campaign has never occurred.

    7. The provincial government has made no reasonable attempt to inform motorists about obscuring licence plates. The only communication by the government has been a press release on April 22, 1996. The government relied solely upon the media to disseminate the message. Interestingly, the press release contains no warning about bicycle racks, probably one of the most common problems.

    9. Motor vehicle offences do not require intent, as do criminal offences. You are guilty of the offence even if you had no intent to violate the law.
    In summary: a fundamental change in the level of enforcement, and little fair warning by the government.

    Do I need to display front licence plates?
    The Motor Vehicle Act Regulations proscribe that number plates shall attached if provided. If you get two plates, you need to display two plates...

    Motor Vehicle Act Regulation 3.01

    3.01 No person shall drive or operate a vehicle on a highway unless it bears number plates in compliance with this division.

    Motor Vehicle Act Regulation 3.011

    3.011 Number plates for a vehicle shall be attached
    (a) where, under the Act, 2 number plates are issued and authorized for display on a vehicle, one plate to the front and one plate to the rear of the vehicle, and
    (b) where, under the Act, a single number plate is issued and authorized for display on a vehicle, to the rear of the vehicle.

     Rev: 1999.07.17 contact SENSEtext map of SENSE web siteback to SENSE home pageback to top of this page